In my favorite hotel's kitchen, there's a big sign on the way out to the dining room:
"If you're not proud of it, don't serve it."
This is true for all of us in the context of what we are called to serve everyday - a speech, a conversation, a clean floor, a taught student, a completed project, etc.
Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:
1. What is the quality of what you are “serving” everyday to those around you?
2. If you had to rate what you are “serving” on a scale of 1 to 10, what would you rate it?
3. Why is it so easy to recognize poor qualities in others, rather than in ourselves?
4. What is more important- recognizing poor qualities in others? Or in ourselves?
5. If you could upgrade one personal quality, what would it be?
6. What can you do on a daily basis to improve this quality?
Any high performer, whether in the leadership world or not, knows they reach a point where they have to make a commitment move to inspire their performance to the next level. My good friend and fellow speaker Stewart Kennedy tells the story of a rock climber who has seemingly climbed as high as he could. He has reached a point where the next hand hold is just out of reach. To go higher he has to literally let go of where he is and leap for the next hand hold.
This is a great example of the first step out of four high performers must make to inspire their personal performance - they must take a risk. It is also a metaphor for step two, which is aiming for something. I have found myself in a similar predicament as of late. I have been growing our speaking business and doing great work, but I feel like it is time to aim for something new, something more challenging, and something higher. As high performers, we have to have something to aim for. A project or idea or proposition that truly inspires us.
Step three is to leverage our relationships to get there. We all know life is a team sport. Things get done through people, not systems or emails or silos. If you are struggling to reach a higher level, start tapping people who are at or near that level already. Learn from them. Lean on them. Help them (if you can.) If the relationship is authentic, they will learn, lean and help back.
The final step is to examine where your energies are directed. Energy is one of those unique resources that is not finite like time or money. Energy comes from the weirdest and sometimes most unexpected sources. If you need to go to the next level, you will need to redirect your energies to new places and you will need to create energy from new sources. This is not easy, but it is attainable. The toughest thing about energy in the context of reaching higher is how much it takes to get there. As a high performer, you are more than likely on auto-pilot in a number of areas. This auto-pilot has to be disengaged and you must take over the wheel again.
It is exhausting, but if you are fully committed to taking the risk, if your "something" is worth the aim and if the relationships are leveraged properly, you will be creating more energy than you expend.
Be rare. Go higher. Someone in your immediate circle and an infinite number of people in new circles need you to go there. They will be inspired to do the same. And that is what Personal Leadership Insight is all about. Inspiring others through your inspiring work.
The following link will take you to the Kevin Eikenberry Group's teleconference page to learn how to listen in - no charge.
We can run through all the basics of listening, but I suspect you have heard them all before...
- Maintain eye contact
- Lean forward
- Mirror their body language
- Give response body language
- Don't interrupt
- Don't just wait to talk, but actually listen
- And on and on
If you want to get better at listening, you need more than the old standby suggestions. You need something more tangible, relevant, and, frankly, interesting.
So, let's look at listening not from a "how do I get the information better" stand point, but rather take a look at how you can get better at processing the information you do get.
It starts with listening like a leader. The leader behavior patterns relevant to information processing are providing value, changing things for the better, serving others, making the most of every interaction, respecting the viewpoints of others, knowing they don't know everything and being available to others. Adopting these behavior patterns will allow you to listen like a leader and process information more effectively.
1. Providing value - As you listen, look for ways to provide value to the other person. I'm not saying you need to always provide feedback or try to improve upon what they are saying (this could hurt the conversation more than help it), but by adopting this mind set you are putting your attention fully in their world.
2. Changing things for the better - There are times when your expertise is necessary and the situation is ripe for that expertise to be given. Take the initiative to listen intently, find the gaps your expert opinion can fill and fill them. If you are offering critical advice to their situation, they have no doubt you are listening.
3. Serving others - Stop what you are doing. Provide full attention to the other person. Ask questions to get them talking about things they are concerned with. All these say you are interested in them more than yourself. One person listening fully to another is a powerful example of service-mindedness. You are giving everything about you to that person at that moment in time.
4. Making the most of every interaction - Start your conversations, either with friends, peers or perfect strangers, like you were already in the middle of a conversation with them. Let your guard down and be you from the very start. It is amazing how quickly people will open up to you. Which is why most people don't do this - they don't want others to open up. They are not interested in listening like a leader - they would rather just move on with their life. My wife always points out service folks (toll booth collectors, drive-thru attendants, etc.) are always telling me their life story. The reason is because I am natural and authentic with them from the very start. And I ask questions and respond to their answer.
5. Knowing they don't know everything - This is the simplest pattern to recognize and sometimes the hardest to adopt. People who think they know everything (and you know at least two or three) are passively and actively encouraging others to not talk. They send signals that turn people away from them, intellectually and physically. They don't listen like a leader. When you get ok with knowing you don't know everything, you get ok with saying you don't understand something (giving someone else the chance to share their expertise), you end up listening more (giving someone else the chance to talk more) and you appear (because you are) more authentic, natural, imperfect, etc.
6. Being available to others - This last point taps into a leader's desire to mentor others. Being available to others doesn't mean you have to set up formal mentoring relationships. It does mean in order to listen like a leader, you have to put yourself in situations, seek out situations, encourage situations and fully commit to situations where you are providing value to someone else just by being an ear to lean on. Say yes when someone asks to bounce an idea off you. Say yes when a younger and/or less experience peer asks for a little of your time. Be available to share what you can.
Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:
1. What are some ways that you can provide value while listening?
2. How can you, listening like a leader benefit those around you?
3. How can it benefit you?
4. What are some of the common distractions that take our attention off of the other person?
5. How can you remind yourself to make the most of each interaction?
6. What are some meaningful ways you can show that you are available to others?
Before we look at the jumps, let's examine the structure.
Each jump has three elements:
1. The starting place
2. The ending place
3. The leap from one to the other.
All three are critical components of that particular leadership lesson. However, the leap itself is where the magic lives. It is rather simple to recognize the importance of each starting and ending point. How a great student leader makes each jump is the secret ingredient. The "how" is a moving target because it is different for each person, but our purpose here is to kick out into the open a few guiding dynamics for any student desiring to be a great leader.
Jump 1 - Self to Self-Aware
Our first starting place is all about authenticity and trust. Being ok with being you. Not putting a front on for people or being one person in one situation and another person in another. Mastering the "self" starting point is the foundation for trust - the core component of effective and healthy leadership. Every good student leader is comfortable in their own skin.
The ending point is being very self-aware. Recognizing your strengths and your weaknesses. Understanding your personality, behavior patterns, emotional triggers, learning style, core talents, etc. If you are going to be successful, you have to first know who "you" is.
The giant jump in the middle requires tools for examination, disciplining your attention to keep looking, asking, examining and a routine of repeating certain processes each year. This is one reason why involvement in student organizations is so beneficial. Most of these organizations host annual leadership conferences and provide other leadership development opportunities where you have the chance to learn about yourself, challenge yourself and expand your understanding of yourself.
Jump 2 - MySpace to YourSpace
Our second starting place is about the power of being a highly-specialized success agent that owns a "brand" or a MySpace. This doesn't mean you actually have to have a MySpace page, that is just the metaphor. It does mean you have spent time building a reputation that people trust, recognize and know. Every good student leader is branded with personal success.
The ending point is living in YourSpace and supercharging your agent status by being service-minded. It is amazing how many people could jump straight into a leader status just by getting this one thing right - by getting out of their own little world and put their focus on helping others.. Pretty self-explanatory. It involves thinking about how your behavior will impact those around you before you do it. Thinking about the ripples in the pond before you throw the stone, so to speak.
The giant jump in the middle takes Emotional Maturity. This one trait is so important it is one of the Ten PLI Essentials. It is challenging to master, but worth the effort. The best definition of maturity I have ever heard is "when a person thinks more of other's welfare than they do of their own."
Jump 3 - Cause to Because
Our final starting place takes us into the real world and is about how real value is created by student leaders. The cause in this case could be any project, mission, event, etc. that engages your talents, skills and experience. Every good student leader has a purpose for their leadership.
The ending point is all about understanding. Why is your cause important? What difference does it make in the world? What is your role in the cause and how do you bring value to the table?
The giant jump in the middle is an exercise in perspective and connections. Great student leaders have connected the dots between their actions and the actions of their peers and the impact those actions make in the world. They not only see the how (what do I do next as a leader), but they also see the why (what is the real change my next action will create).
Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:
1. What are you all about?
2. What about you do you need to still discover?
3. What are some of the resources available to you right now that can help you challenge and understand who you truly are?
4. We build our brand every day, what is something you can do on a daily basis to strengthen yours?
5. What is one thing you can do to help others today? This week? This month?
6. What are you passionate about? What is your cause?
7. Why is it important? What difference will it make in the world?
8. What is your role in the cause and how do you bring value?